(This article appeared originally on NextAvenue.org.)
If you hope to get a job soon, you’ll be encouraged by what I heard at the fourth annual Indeed.com conference held last month in Austin, Texas. The upbeat forecast for job hunters: The job market is hot, employers are having a tough time finding talent and more companies want to recruit a diverse workforce.
Since Indeed.com is the world’s largest job search engine and the dominant player in the online employment space, it’s no surprise that this year’s conference attracted over 1,700 employers eager to learn from Indeed’s executives and economists about the most effective ways to recruit talent in today’s competitive hiring landscape.
So what does a tight labor pool mean for your job search? I’m a career coach, and here’s my take based on what I learned from the conference:
First, let me set the stage for you. The job market is sizzling hot (for most Americans). The unemployment rate overall just dropped to 3.8 percent, the lowest in 18 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“That’s even lower than what we saw during the tech bubble,” said Jed Kolko, Indeed’s chief economist. “There is now a job opening for every unemployed worker.”
But when it comes to the job market, national figures can be a little deceptive. The unemployment rate is considerably higher than the U.S. average in places like Rochester, New York (recently 5.4 percent), and much lower than average in others like San Francisco (2.7 percent).
Likewise, the unemployment rate is a lot lower for people with a college degree (2.0 percent) than for those who didn’t complete high school (5.4 percent). And the unemployment rate is still nearly twice as high for people who are black (5.9 percent) as for those who are white (3.5 percent).
Also, there are still 1. 2 million Americans who’ve been out of work for 27 weeks or more; they make up about 19 percent of the unemployed, but roughly a third of people 55 and older who are unemployed. And people age 55 to 64 who are unemployed have been out of work for an average of about nine months compared to those age 25 to 34 who’ve been jobless for just over five months, on average.
The labor market should remain tight for the foreseeable future, said Kolko, due to the strong economy, an aging labor force and more restrictive immigration policies. Tech is the wild card.
“Technology both creates and destroys jobs, and that could impact this forecast,” Kolko said.
But wages are only rising slowly. Employers are raising wages to gain a competitive edge, though not at the rate typically associated with a tight labor market. Average hourly earnings have increased 2.7 percent over the past year, up from 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2017.
Here are three recommendations Paul D’Arcy, senior vice president of marketing for Indeed, offered employers for improving hiring outcomes and my take on how they might impact your job search:
1. Adopt blind resumé screening to hide biasing information. A majority of companies are now using software hiding at least some information that’s prone to bias (an applicant’s name, address and college), while preserving other hiring-relevant information in place.
My take: This is a welcome trend for women, people with ethnic-sounding names and other candidates who have traditionally been marginalized during the initial screening process.
2. Use diverse teams to make hiring decisions. Having a team that represents a blend of ages, races, gender and experience should help check the unconscious bias of any one hiring manager. More employers are doing this, to the advantage of some applicants. At Cisco, the introduction of diverse interview panels increased the odds of making it through the interview process by 50 percent for Hispanic women and 70 percent for African American women.
My take: Here again, a welcome trend, although it could mean you’ll face more panel interviews when you go out for jobs. Personally, I’d also love to see more companies include older workers in talent acquisition roles, which are typically filled with younger people.
3. Attract alternative candidates with alternative hiring paths. Traditional resumé-driven hiring paths can lead employers to overlook great candidates with untraditional backgrounds. But some firms lately have been avoiding this mistake.
Indeed.com eliminated the college-degree requirement for 3,000+ positions after internal research showed a degree was not essential for success in those roles. The cloud-based computer platform company, Compose, has banned resumés and instead asks candidates to write a short story about data, spend a day working on a mock project and complete an assignment.
My take: When you’re job hunting, you can now expect to be asked to complete more tests, assignments and mock projects as part of the screening process. At the conference, Indeed unveiled something called Indeed Assessments—a screening tool that uses things like real-life simulations and skills tests to help employers screen candidates.
One last thing I wanted to pass along from the conference: According to the latest Indeed research, searches for jobs using terms like “remote,” “telecommute” and “work from home” are up by a third over last year. And 51 percent of job seekers say “flexible hours” is one of the top three factors that would attract them to a new job (after good pay and good location).
Let’s hope employers respond to this news by offering more flexible scheduling options. That would be a welcome trend, indeed.
Nancy Collamer, M.S., is a career coach, speaker and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. Her website is MyLifestyleCareer.com; on Twitter she is @NancyCollamer.